Our Academy teams returned to training on Monday along with 10 new scholars who recently signed their agreements ahead of the new season.
Ed Brand will remain in charge of our Under-18s in 2021/22 and will hope to build on a challenging campaign for our youngsters last term, in which we finished seventh in the league and exited the FA Youth Cup at the fifth round stage.
Despite this, plenty of exposure to youth team football was handed to our schoolboys, with Ronnie Stutter, Lewis Hall, Brodi Hughes and Leo Casteldine regulars in the team and never looking out of place, contributing 20 starts throughout the season.
All players in their Under-17 year are required to start the season on a scholarship agreement, before they are permitted to sign a first professional football contract on or after their 17th birthday.
After the players put pen to paper in a socially-distanced signing session at Cobham, we spoke to assistant head of youth development Jim Fraser for the lowdown on the 10 new scholars...
Leo is a midfielder who joined us as an Under-15 from AFC Wimbledon. An attacking midfield player who has the ability to play box-to-box, he likes to create and score goals and is very tenacious in the tackle.
He has represented England at camps at Under-15 and Under-16 level and scored one goal for the youth team in 10 appearances while still a schoolboy.
Louis joined our Academy as an Under-13 from his local side Cambridge United. A tall and strong forward, Louis can operate from the left or in the centre and has an eye for goal.
Lewis came through our development centre programme and has been at the club since his Under-8 season. He is a talented left-footed central midfield player with the ability to play box-to-box and operate anywhere on his favoured side of the pitch.
He can score and create goals as seen during his nine appearances for the Under-18s while a schoolboy where he scored one goal. He has represented England at camps during his Under-15 and Under-16 seasons.
Brodi has been with us since he was eight, having come through our development centre programme. He is a central defender who sometimes operates as a full-back or central midfielder due to his versatility. He enjoys playing with the ball at his feet and has represented England at Under-17 level.
There were eight Under-18s appearances for Hughes while still a schoolboy and he scored his first goal at that level against Brighton in March 2020.
Tudor has been part of the club since his Under-8 season, first registering for the Academy as an Under-9.
A talented left-footed attacking player who can play out wide or through the middle, Tudor attends Eton College where he studies a range of subjects including English, Greek, German, Latin, Maths and Physics, and has been involved in England camps at Under-15 level.
Richard came through our development centre and registered at the Academy as an Under-9. A very calm and composed right-sided defender who has the ability to both defend and attack, he has all the attributes of a modern-day full-back.
As well as appearing for our Under-18s in the league last season, he has been involved with England up to Under-16 level.
A central midfield player, Sam has been a part of the Academy since he was an eight-year-old. He has very good technique and game awareness for his age and has been involved with England Under-16s.
An exciting attacker who can play in a number of positions with his favoured right foot, Zain has been involved with England as an Under-16.
He made his Chelsea Under-18s debut last season while still a schoolboy during the 4-0 win away at West Ham in January 2021.
Ronnie is a forward who joined us after he left West Ham at the end of his Under-14 season. A constant threat who loves scoring goals, Ronnie already has one at Under-18s level having made 10 outings for Brand’s team as a schoolboy last term.
He has England recognition and recently captained the Under-16s during a 2021 summer camp.
Billy came through our development centre programme and has been with us since his Under-8 year. A talented and technical player, Billy’s main position is central midfield but he has the ability to drop in to the defensive line.
He has been involved with England and scored his first goal for the Under-16s during a recent get-together.
Also at Cobham this week to sign new professional deals were Teddy Sharman-Lowe and Jimi Tauriainen, who will stay at the club until at least 2024. Meanwhile, Joe Haigh has committed himself to the Blues until 2023.